Farah Mahmood – Mrs. Pakistan World 2013 Interview
Tell us a bit about yourself!
Not sure where to start, but here goes! I was born in Pakistan. My father was a doctor, and we moved to Saudi Arabia when I was very young, and stayed there until I was 18, when we moved back to Pakistan. After getting married, I moved to London with my husband, and very soon after that to Dubai. I am blessed with four beautiful children, 2 boys and 2 girls. Despite having had a very privileged upbringing and a pampered life after marriage, this never prevented me from staying very grounded, and being keen to learn and excel, both personally and professionally. In Dubai, I got into health and fitness, nutrition and self-improvement in a big way. I also landed a job as an interior designer, and managed some major hotel design projects for local companies in Dubai. When we decided to focus more on the children’s education, we decided to move to Canada. Here, I have become a certified personal trainer and a qualified image consultant, and become an expert in anti-ageing and nutrition. I am in the planning stages of opening an image and fitness studio for women in Toronto.
How did you hear about the Mrs. Pakistan World?
I read a lot about the pageant through an Internet search and so applied for it.
How do you feel about winning the title?
I feel it is an honor, and also that it gives me a wonderful opportunity to communicate what I feel defines the mature Pakistani woman of today, whilst trying my best to remove some of the stigma attached to such titles.
How does your family feel about the win?
My whole family has been extremely supportive. From my husband, who has always encouraged me to follow my dreams, through my kids and my siblings, everyone feels this is something that I should do and do to a high standard. There is a sense that I was always destined to do something like this, as I have always enjoyed the opportunity to get exposure and communicate myself to the outside world.
So what are your plans for the pageant?
Well, I have an image in mind that I would like to project, and at the same time, I hope to be a positive role model for other Pakistani women. I want to show that you can be in this kind of business, and yet be a thinking person who is modest, decent and hardworking behaves in a dignified fashion and does not compromise many of the traditions that make our country what it is.
What is your main advice for Pakistani women?
My favorite advice is that we can be a collective force to be reckoned with in the outside world. Many Islamic countries have taken the step of empowering women to great effect, and Pakistan loses out while women`s literacy and education rates are so low – in effect, we are only half as successful as we could do if half of the people are not contributing positively to our development. So my advice would be, do not accept the status quo, and, wherever you are and whatever your circumstances, do not give up the fight for improvement. If every woman improves her situation by a little, that is collectively a whole lot of improving!
I would also like to convey that age is just a number: it is never too late to have ambitions and work towards achieving them. Never give up!
How do you think a title like Mrs. Pakistan World change the plight of women in Pakistan?
I am not arrogant enough to say that a pageant or I can single-handedly change the plight of Pakistani women. However, any publicity that goes to create a sense of empowerment and a sense of ambition in women is positive as far as I am concerned. This position will give me an opportunity to be internationally heard. I have supported some related charitable foundations, and intend to continue to spread the message of the plight of Pakistani women, example poverty, lack of empowerment and oppression. I believe this will have some positive impact and am really excited about this prospect.
Mrs. Universe is a pageant you will be representing Pakistan in, how is that feeling?
It is a great honor to represent Pakistan internationally. I am really looking forward to it, and see it as a huge responsibility to help to turn around Pakistan’s ugly image abroad into that of a beautiful nation that is full of talent.
At the same time, I believe it is challenge to not be seen as someone who flies in the face of our values – I have some ideas as to how I can try to shift perceptions in my own way. There is an element of anxiety as it means a lot to me to be able to achieve my goal in that area. I would like to give Pakistan its own “pageant identity” through my representation of our country.
Are you ready for the pageant in the summer, or are you taking any measures to prepare for it?
As I plan to be myself (as usual), I am as ready as I’ll ever be!
You will be the 6th woman in history to be named Mrs. Pakistan World for a country that produces strong women like Benazir Bhutto and Malala, what would you say to that?
That we don’t have enough women like those two (although there are some other notably strong women in the public eye in Pakistan). There are millions of Malalas’ and Benazirs’ whose voice is unheard, either due to personal reticence, lack of opportunity or oppression. Once those barriers start breaking, which they most inevitably will, we will see the power of Pakistani women shine through and cast its light on the rest of the world. I truly believe that Pakistani women are great and unique in their exposure to the harsh conditions in which many find themselves.
As a Pakistani woman, who is your ideal Pakistani female role model and why?
Being an advocate of individuality, I don’t have (and have never had) any individual role model. I believe there are many people who have admirable qualities that one should seek to replicate. For instance, I admire Benazir for her determination, Malala for her courage and Maria B for her love of Pakistan and her charitable endeavors – and her artistic ability of course! I also take inspiration from Pakistani women in Pakistan, who fight on a daily basis against poverty, starvation, oppression and narrow-mindedness, and yet still manage to educate their children, provide support to their families and progress in their own lives – their husbands would be nowhere without them, and they are my true heroes.
And finally what does Pakistan mean to you?
Pakistan means a great idea, it means struggles against poverty and corruption, it means decency and dignity, it means immense opportunity, and it means untapped talent, and finally, it means home.